The Rector’s sermon for June 4, 2014                                                                                                                                                   

A Preaching Series on


Week 2 of 16 – Introduction and Faith – including slides #1-6


Nicky Gumbel, the creator of the ALPHA program, told a story of an incident that happened when he was teaching a group of young people about prayer.  He asked them, “How many of you pray to God the Father?”  Several hands went up.  Then he asked, “How many of you pray to Jesus, God the Son?”  Many more hands went up.  Then he asked, “How many of you pray to the Holy Spirit?”  NOBODY raised a hand.  After a few uncomfortable minutes, a young boy raised his hand and said, “Sir, the boy who prays to the Holy Spirit isn’t here today.”


Except for the Pentecostals and a few scattered groups within various denominations, there typically isn’t much focus on the Holy Spirit.  Perhaps it’s because it’s difficult to get your arms around the existence of something that doesn’t have a readily understandable purpose or form except for a flame or a dove.  Or perhaps it’s because of the unknown element that comes with the Holy Spirit.  We’ve heard about those “things” that the Holy Spirit does and can do, and some of those “things” are way outside our normal comfort zone.  And sadly, that’s because we haven’t heard the whole story.


Today is the Feast of Pentecost, the day that Jesus promised, the day that that uncomfortable Holy Spirit came to earth to empower the faithful believers of God to become all that they were meant to be.  Yet even with a special feast day, who is this Holy Spirit?  This uncomfortable, misunderstood, illusive Holy Spirit is going to be the key to the journey we begin today.   When Jesus told Peter, “Upon this rock I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it, “ those weren’t just words.  WE are the church—HIS Church—and beginning today we are going to look at the tools of our trade—those things that will make us better Christians—those things that we call “The Gifts of the Spirit.” 


There are a couple of things you need to know up front.  First of all, wherever this journey of discovery takes us, know that you can’t lose!  Think about that…can you claim that about anything you’ve every undertaken—that you knew up front that you couldn’t lose?  The reason you can’t lose is that you are already working for the kingdom of God, and this journey is simply your opportunity to learn how to be more productive.  God will use this time to teach you more about yourself and how you can better serve Him and others.


So what are the gifts of the Spirit?  (SLIDE #1). 



The SHORT List

(1 Cor. 12:4-11)

               Discerning of spirits                                     Knowledge

                         Faith                                                     Miracles

                       Healing                                                  Prophecy

Interpretation of tongues                     Speaking in tongues



These are the gifts that most people think of when they talk about gifts of the Spirit; they appear in 1 Corinthians.  And because some of them make us uncomfortable, we don’t want to know about them.   There was a time in my life when some of them made me uncomfortable.  But why is that?   Well, we’re always uncomfortable with the unknown.  So perhaps the best way to approach the gifts is through their history or what they could possibly mean to the church and us today.   And, in case that list doesn’t appeal to you, THERE’S MORE! (SLIDE #2 ). 



        Administration                           Giving                              Miracles                       Apostleship

           Healing                               Missionary                           Celibacy                         Helps

            Pastor                                Contributing                        Hospitality               Poverty (voluntary)

                       Craftsman                             Intercessor                        Prophecy                      Deliverance

                Interpreting tongues                  Public Speaking             Discerning of spirit               Knowledge

           Service                                   Encourager                      Leadership                Speaking in tongues 

         Evangelist                                 Martyrdom                        Teaching                             Faith

                                                                         Mercy                             Wisdom

Why do we need these gifts?  Well, God has a plan.   (SLIDE #3).   


G O D’ S   P L A N

Gifts of the Spirit are natural and supernatural, and…

EVERYONE has gifts.

Gifts may not last, but…

They are meant to produce FRUIT, and…

The Fruit of the Gifts are spiritual and eternal!


As you probably noticed on both lists, the gifts of the Spirit can be natural gifts or supernatural gifts, and …EVERYONE has gifts.  So don’t even try saying “I don’t have any gifts” or “I’m too old” or “why would God give me any gifts?” There are no excuses.   Each one of us—you and me—has at least ONE gift, and typically most people have more. 


But Scripture says that gifts won’t last.  So what good are they?  Simple!  Gifts produce FRUIT, and the fruit of the Spirit is spiritual and, what is spiritual, is meant to last forever!  Gifts produce fruit…fruit lasts forever.  So what is the fruit of the Spirit’s gifts?  (SLIDE #4). 

Fruit of the Gifts

                        Love                         Kindness

                                   Joy                            Goodness

                       Peace                         Faithfulness

                       Patience                     Gentleness


(Gal. 5:22,23;    Rom. 14:17;    Eph. 3:14-16;

Eph. 4:2-3;    Col. 3:12-15)


Using the gifts of the Spirit will produce fruit, and the fruit of the Spirit is what makes us effective for the Gospel of Christ.  It’s not the gift, but the FRUIT.  Scripture says that gifts will pass away, that gifts don’t last.  But the fruit of the Spirit is eternal.  So it is the FRUIT of the Spirit that we seek.  That’s what will win souls to Christ.  In case you’re thinking this is a lot to remember, copies of these sermons, along with the slides, are available in the Narthex or on the website.  If you take the last one in the Narthex, let me know.


The Holy Spirit has always been here:  Genesis 1:1 – In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  The earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters. The  Spirit, however, was pretty much in the background for centuries until 1901, in Topeka, Kansas, when a certain man laid his hands on a particular woman, she began speaking in tongues, and the Pentecostal movement began.  A chain of events led to a revival in Los Angeles and an interest in the supernatural gifts of the Holy Spirit began.  After World War II this interest in the Holy Spirit began to spread to mainstream denominations.  And in 1960, an Episcopal priest in Van Nuys, California, named Dennis Bennett, shared with his congregation that he had experienced the Holy Spirit in “the Pentecostal way,” and what we know as the charismatic movement began.


Now why is this important for you to know?  First of all, these gifts of the Holy Spirit are for ALL of us, and if we don’t understand their purpose, we won’t seek them out.   And if we don’t learn about ALL that is available to us, we can’t be the best that we can be.  Knowing what is available to us is part of the problem.  The Pentecostal movement emphasized the more spectacular gifts—the “showy” gifts, if you will—the ones that were truly “out of this world”—speaking in tongues, interpreting tongues, and prophecy—and with that emphasis, the spiritual world was misunderstood, and many of the other gifts were either not taught or they were considered unimportant.  Even today in some places it is believed that the supernatural gifts are better than the natural gifts.   That’s not true, and it’s not Scriptural! 


Being a Christian in today’s world is difficult, and we need all the help we can get.  Being a Christian in today’s world means filling the needs that arise in your church as well as in the community.  That’s why spiritual gift discovery is so important.  So often in a church people align themselves in areas of ministry where they are just filling a spot instead of using their gifts.  Of course often we all find ourselves sometimes filling a need in an area that’s not our expertise, and that’s not a bad thing.  But how much better would it be if we volunteered in an area where we were using and developing the gifts God has given us?   If we serve in our areas of gift, we thrive—and the church will thrive and we will be energized by our gifts as we apply them to the work of the Lord.   Conversely, if and when we function outside of our gifts, it’s usually a burden.  It drags us down, it drains our energy, and it’s no fun.  Think about those places where you have been involved, where you’ve hated every minute of it!   If that was the case, most likely, that wasn’t your gift!   So how do we find out what gifts God has given us?  (SLIDE #5)  


What gifts do I have?

     Step 1:    Explore the possibilities

     Step 2:    Experiment with many gifts

     Step 3:    Examine your feelings

     Step 4:    Evaluate your effectiveness

     Step 5:    Expect confirmation


So that’s the overall picture of what we hope to accomplish over the summer.  At the end of our journey, you will have a deeper sense of your responsibility in this body of Christ.  And those discoveries will produce the fruit of the Spirit—love, joy, peace—just to name a few—and that fruit will last.  


The plan is to take each gift in random order because no gift is better than another.  That’s important to remember, no matter what you may have heard:  no gift is better than another.   But personally, my sense is that so much hinges on the gift of FAITH (SLIDE #6). 



                                                       The Gift of Faith

-       Faith helps me understand God’s will in my life.

-       Faith allows me to believe that, whatever God tells me about something, it will happen.

-       Faith gives me a sense of peace in my life.

-       No matter what is going on, I believe that God is at the center and he will bring me through anything.

-       My faith can help the body of Christ believe that God can accomplish anything, even those things that seem impossible.


Faith helps you understand God’s will in your life, which obviously will include what gifts He has for you.  Faith allows you to believe that, whatever God tells you about something, it will happen.   Now that statement—whatever God tells you—I know is problematic for some of you.  You’re thinking “God doesn’t talk to me, and even if He did, how will I know it’s God.”  Good question.   When things pop up in your mind, it doesn’t always mean the idea or the thought originated with you; it could have been placed there by God.   Sometimes if you don’t pay attention to a thought that has come up in your mind, it reoccurs.  Has that ever happened to you?  Of course, it has.  It could be God nudging you to pay attention to something he wants you to do.  That’s how God speaks to us.  


The next thing faith does is it gives you a sense of peace no matter what is going on because you believe that God is at the center and he will bring you through anything.  Those among you who have received bad news from doctors yet display a sense of peace—YOU surely have the gift of faith.  And finally your faith can help the body of Christ believe that God can accomplish anything, even those things that seem impossible.   Apply those principles to your life and ask yourself:  Do I have the gift of faith?


As we embark on this journey to lay hold of those gifts which God has for us, I’m reminded of a scene in The Lion King  movie.  King Mufasa is dead and Simba has run away, believing that Mufasa’s death is his fault.  He and his friends  Pumba and Timon are living the good life, doing what they want, eating what they want—they called it Hakuna Matata (It means “no worries.”)   Simba’s lady “lion-friend” shows up and tells him that he must come back to the Prideland and reclaim what is rightfully his.   It takes some convincing, but he finally returns to find the lush land of the lions devoid of trees, no food to be found, completely destroyed by the hyenas who were allowed to run free in the land of the lions.   The delicate balance in the Circle of Life had been thrown off kilter; the rules had been changed; the best plan had been ignored.  One wrong decision, to be selfish and uncaring to others, had lead the entire community down a path of destruction.  But Simba returns to fix what went wrong, to return to the better way of living, to take back what was his.


And that’s what I hope we will do throughout this learning process.  The Spirit of God is ours.  It has always been ours.  The Gifts of the Spirit have always been ours by virtue of our baptism.   Our job is to identify them and apply them to the work of the body of Christ.  Read the handouts that the ushers will have for you.  Take this week to think and pray about the gift of faith.  This gift I’m sure belongs to each one of us!  The challenge now is to apply it freely, every day of our lives.


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